Challenging Internalized Adultism

The tendency of being dismissive or disregarding of adultism by both young people and adults reflects one of the core, unspoken strategies inherent in the dominant relationships between children, youth and adults in our society. Taking in that discrimination so deeply that it silences a child or youth is one effect; encouraging a young person to lambast themselves or their peers or younger people is another. This internalization disables young people from being able to form a positive identity based in their age, and further promotes the inability of young people to become effective agents for social change throughout our society.

Much needs to be written about identifying internalized adultism and drawing out its causes and effects on their lives of both young people and adults. I have found very little literature that does this in a sophisticated enough way to warrant response. In the meantime, I would suggest the following questions can be essential for challenging internalized adultism. They are good for any age, and only need to be adjusted for each individual’s usage.
  • What has been or is good about being a young person?
  • What makes me proud of being young?
  • What are children and youth people really like?
  • What has been difficult about being young?
  • What do I want other young people to know about me?
  • Specifically, how have I been hurt by other young people?
  • When do I remember standing up against the mistreatment of one young person by another?
  • When do I remember being strongly supported by another young person?
  • When do I remember that another child or youth (unrelated) really stood up for me?
  • When do I remember acting on some feeling of internalized adultism?
  • When do I remember resisting and refusing to act on this basis?
We must examine these questions for their outcomes in our own lives and the lives of those around us, simply because they begin to allow us to go further. If you want to learn more about adultism I would encourage you to explore my ally Margaret Pevec‘s blog, as well as John Bell’s essential article on the topic. I have a resource page on The Freechild Project website, too, and my friends at Youth On Board address the issue extensively, as well.
In order to effectively challenge adultism we each have to examine its effects throughout our own lives. This is one attempt to encourage each of us to do that.

Published by Adam F.C. Fletcher

I'm a speaker, writer, trainer, researcher and advocate who researches, writes and shares about education, youth, and history.

One thought on “Challenging Internalized Adultism

  1. Adam,I’d say that internal reflection, especially in terms of memory, can be one of the most powerful tools I think in both recognizing one’s own prejudices and also combating the prejudices of your peers.For one, we were all younger than we are now. For those that criticize young professionals, YOU were once a young professional, for those that criticize undergraduates, YOU were once an undergraduate, for those that criticize underage drinkers, YOU were once one of them…and on.Usually upon reflection (in my experience), folks will usually cede some ground in those terms. It’s hard to be defensive (thinking reactionary youth empowerment/reverse racism type of discourse) when you, yourself once were in the unempowered position.For those that remain defensive, upon reflection “it wasn’t that bad” “I was too immature for xyz” “hey I had it hard I’m not complaining” I find that appealing to their better sense of social optimism, justice, and logic to be useful: Because we were discriminated against it is okay? Was there nothing that could have made our situation better, more just? Should we not work to improve things?I find that engaging someone who is talking shit/joking/whatever, even with just a line or two is very non-confrontational – but I don’t know if that is me or if it can be generalized.One final thing, and a general note about your adultism posts. I feel like many of your points could be easily adapted to or were adapted from critiques of racism/classism/sexism/heterosexism which I think is useful in that it rhetorically points out that adultism is discrimination and should be concieved of in the same terms. However I feel that by doing so, in some ways, you lose a recognition about what makes audtism different from other the other isms. We were all once younger than we are. I guess the question is, should the strategies be adapted to this type of discrimination? Would the strategies against anti-classism be different if you were all born poor and grew up rich? If we were all born of color and grew up white?Cheers for the posts and all your work.JV

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